By Paul Hillman
Yes, it is true that the American league is still by far the stronger league, and it will probably stay that way into the foreseeable future. However, the National league is definitely making progress. Especially in the west. Last year if you would've told me at the beginning of the season that the Colorado Rockies were going to be in the world series I would've gave you a drug test. Since they came into the league, the Rockies have been a laughingstock. That is no longer the case. They have a great core of young players. Matt Holliday is an amazing hitter. He also showed that he can be a great leader down the stretch. I also like the one two punch the Rockies have in the bullpen in Manny Corpas and Brian Fuentes. It doesn't hurt that veterans like Todd Helton are still around. I could definitely see the Rockies competing for a division title. They could definitely give teams fits in the postseason, because they can put a ten spot up on the board on any given night. The Rockies were not the lone team from the NL West to earn a playoff berth last year. The Arizona Diamondbacks took a lot of people by surprise by making it to the NL Championship series, and they did it with one of the youngest teams in Major League history. It sure doesn't hurt that the Diamondbacks have a few veterans that have been around the locker room for a while like Eric Byrnes and Orlando Hudson, along with Randy Johnson if he can stay healthy. Those veterans however are few and far between and that may not be a bad thing. The Diamondbacks made a move to get Dan Haren which could prove very valuable down the stretch. They already have one of the best in the game in Brandon Webb. The Diamondbacks are the team some analysts have winning the pennant this year and I can see why. They lost very little, although losing Jose Valverde leaves the closer role shaky at best, their starting pitching has taken a step up. If they can get even a Randy Johnson that is eighty percent healthy every team in the National League better look out. Not to mention the throwback Micah Owings who can hit like nobody's business which is a lost art for most pitchers these days. It could definitely be a good year in the valley of the sun if you are a Diamondbacks fan. Another team that has made very big strides is the Los Angeles Dodgers. I am not the only one expecting big things from the Dodgers, as many analysts are picking the Dodgers to win the World Series. I don't blame them because the Dodgers have one of the most talented teams that I have seen in years. Adding Joe Torre was a great move because the man commands respect. The Dodgers have a mix of veterans and youngsters that could turn out very successful if they stay healthy. I am impressed with the fielding of young outfielder Matt Kemp. He has a great arm, good range and can really hit. Russell Martin at catcher has a lot of raw potential. He showed last year that he is capable of winning a game for you. Nomar is due to have a good season offensively now that some of the pressure has been taken off him with the signing of Andruw Jones. Not only can Jones be an asset offensively but he has so many gold gloves that he ran out of mantle space. Their pitching staff is nothing to sneeze at either. If Jason Schmidt can return to the form of his Giants days, look out. Brad Penny always eats up innings and if Derek Lowe is keeping his sinker down in the zone the Dodgers will be a team to be reckoned with. The only team that really hasn't improved in the off season is the San Francisco Giants. They are currently having a fire sale in spring training trying to get rid of all their old talent like Randy Winn and Ray Durham, which wouldn't be such a bad move if they had the young talent to replace them, but I don't think they do. The Giants should definitely be looking up from the cellar at the other three teams in their division. The only positive thing I can say for the Giants is that they got rid of the circus that is Barry Bonds. All in all I have to say that the National League West is definitely an improved division and can be called the National League Worst no more.